Anshuman looked at the surrounding, the waves of the sea which was unusually fierce that day, reflected the emotional tsunami in his heart. They were observing the steel plant and its surroundings from a distance. It was pitch dark but they knew Kasim was a veteran who had stayed hidden without calling for attention successfully for a decade…which was no mean feat. He looked at a restless Amandeep who had been speaking with his fiancé Nirvika very often and he knew the woman calmed the man. The giant of a man was putty in her hands. Though he was grateful for his friends for having stood by him, he was still restless. He would be so till he saw Manpreet and Simrat were safe. He knew Kasim wouldn’t harm his son… but the very thought of that terrorist being the biological father of his sister’s son made him cringe. He hoped the incident didn’t scar Manpreet’s delicate mind further. He still didn’t get it why Manpreet went along with that little girl on the beach. As if on cue, Rewa who was glued to her laptop spoke up. “…that lady ruby you met on the beach was not Kasim’s wife… she was a member of the sleeper cell and the little girl with them was kidnapped. That girl was threatened to drag Manpreet and she was his school classmate and one of the few friends he had. Those guys did their homework well…”
While they waited for the army unit to reach there, their snipers who reached earlier had taken positions, and Albert and Abenazer had provided local eyes. They were furious to be unintentionally involved in something gruesome and pledged complete cooperation from the village. Within half an hour they had gathered eager villagers who had spread across the areas surrounding the steel plant. There were patches of backwaters where the villagers often frequented to catch the shallow tiny fish. So, they knew the areas and one of them had even found the newly fortressed row house. It was well guarded and they were waiting for a plan of action.
Just as Anshuman thought his patience was up his phone buzzed with an incoming private number. He answered it placing it on the speaker.
“…hello Anshuman…” Kader alias Kasim’s voice boomed through the speaker making everyone sit up alert. “… I know you are somewhere close by… along with those people…”
“…Kader…Manpreet…?” Anshuman’s agitation knew no boundaries.
“…Manpreet is… my son… I am sure you all know this by now… and I am going to take him with me…I don’t want any bloodshed…I have spent the last few years in this country only for my son… and nothing legally can stop me too…”
“…You are wanted by Interpol for a while now Kasim…” Rewa spoke.
There was a pause after which he chuckled and spoke. “…Look…Miss… whomever you are… your member is here with me… she is my hostage…If you want her alive then don’t try anything that can endanger her… as I said… I don’t want violence but if push comes to shove, I won’t hesitate to take any measures whatsoever…”
“…Is…Is…Meera with you…?” Anshuman’s voice cracked with pain.
“…I know you are desperate Anshuman and have always considered you my friend… Meera is safe here with me… She is coming with me too…she is my family as well… So I extend an olive branch… I will let you come in here to see her for one last time… just you alone… and I mean it… NO SMART GAMES…otherwise all bets are off…”
“…NO…NO…please no… I will come…alone…” Anshuman spoke with anguish laced in his voice.
“…Come over to the back gate of the rowhouse and my men will let you in… come alone…”
The call was disconnected and Rewa instructed her tech team to try getting the exact location. The army unit would be there any minute and they were to cover the area stealthily.
A member of the SOP rushed towards Anshuman and asked him to remove his ear stud and replace it with a look-alike with a hidden transmitter which would help them record what transpired. He was also given a watch that would video record the proceedings with forwards and backward cameras if not confiscated.
Anshuman hurried stumbling in the dark with the cell phone torchlight not enough to illuminate the vast stretch of land plunged into darkness. He managed to reach the said combo and knew he was closely shadowed by one of the SOP guys. As told, he reached the backside of the row house barricaded with towering asbestos sheets shining in the single floodlight illuminating the marshy land around it. The shadow had disappeared into the darkness but Anshuman could feel his presence around somewhere. Two tall men dress in black overall trotting automatic guns, escorted inside and shut the heavy entry door. Right at the entrance, he was frisked for weapons, and his phone was confiscated. He was then taken through a cul-de-sac consisting of a passageway opening into a drawing-room. It was dark, but as soon as he stepped in the lights came on, blinding his orbs.
As he removed his hands from over his eyes, he saw Kasim stand across with hands on his hips and gesturing to his men to leave the place. “…Welcome Anshuman… I am glad you followed my directives…”
“…don’t do this Kasim… you can just leave the country and no one would know…” Anshuman pleaded knowing he would be irking the SOP.
“…if I had to do that Anshuman… I wouldn’t have been here in the first place… I had nothing to do with India… I was well settled with my businesses in the UK… I only came here because of Manpreet… it took me a while to find him and I didn’t want to do anything illegal…”
“…kidnapping a child and women is illegal…”
“…you are getting me wrong again Anshuman…I am Manpreet’s biological father… I got Simrat here just for him… she is inside taking care of him as he sleeps peacefully…and Meera… she is the love of my life… the only woman who has ever been in my heart and soul…”
Anshuman was stunned. “…What… what are you talking about…?”
Kasim gestured him to take a seat while he sat across on the sofa. “…As you must be knowing my father… Wajid-Ul-Rehman… well, he was anything but a father figure… I was his oldest son followed by six daughters and then he developed a condition that rendered him infertile… so despite inclining studies, I was forced to follow his twisted path of Jihad… I had to train the young brainwashed men he got from small hamlets of Baluchistan and war-torn Afghanistan…Despite being an MBA from Oxford I had no choice but to come to India to plan out his… deeds…” He rubbed his face and continued. “…one of those whom we trained was Haider who was exceptionally good and he was the ruthless asshole my father always wished for in a son. He adopted the guy. Haider was savage when it came to pursuing goals… However, he went overboard when he was in Pune during a recce for my father… he was almost caught by the intelligence agencies… and, my father sent me to Pune to get him out… He was involved with Aastha… that Brigadier’s daughter… She was a gold-digging druggie and matched his cruelty… And when I went to her hostel to talk to her…it was then… I saw… Meera… She … she was the only white spot in my dark life… the few words we exchanged were music to my ears…. I lost my heart to her right then… I stayed back in Pune only for her… even after Rehmat got back to Kashmir…we had an affair… and that was… the best phase of my life… but then… my father wanted me back in Kashmir for some training program he had concocted for local traders which would facilitate our arms trade in India…That was the last time I saw Meera… she was heartbroken… so was I… we both knew it would be difficult for us to be together until my father was alive… I promised her I would return and then we would go to another country…” he took a sip of water and sighed. “…I… made arrangements without my father knowing but one fine day he found out… he was outraged… but I didn’t know what he had planned… he sent Rehmat to Pune who in turn colluded with Aastha and they found out she was pregnant with my child… Instead of killing her as originally planned my father decided to take her to Karachi… but Rehmat was the one who didn’t dispose of the plans and once during his talks about the operation Kashmir, with his cronies, Meera overheard him… it was then she realized how dangerous Rehmat was… But it was too late….”
Anshuman thought he saw the glistening in Kasim’s eyes as he continued to listen with a thudding heart.
“… Anshuman… I swear … if I had an inkling of what was going on… I would have given up my life for Meera… I loved her so much… that Bastard Rehmat… he had confiscated her phone and mentally tortured her threatening to kill me if she didn’t cooperate… there was no way I could be in touch with her… the next I heard about the attack on the army battalion… which wasn’t commissioned by dad at all… but dad was happy Rehmat had achieved what I couldn’t… and then we got the news that Meera had died… I was inconsolable but by then Rehmat was invincible… and he had gone into hiding… my father too wasn’t interested in pursuing him… I went to the UK… but a few years later father called me to tell me that my child was brought to this world and he expressed a desire to see him before he died… I didn’t care if the old man lived or died but… I wanted my son… and Meera…It took me years to find them here… and when you came along… it became easier… I am sorry to have used you Anshuman… but I wanted the two most precious people in my life back…”
Anshuman didn’t realize he had been crying… he rubbed away his tears and asked. “…Meera.. where is she…?”
Kasim stood up. “…come along Anshuman… its time to meet your sister…”
©priyagole. No part of the story can be copied or shared anywhere without the consent of the writer.